Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 12, pp 3287–3300 | Cite as

The effects of fire on communities, guilds and species of breeding birds in burnt and control pinewoods in central Italy

  • Emiliano Ukmar
  • Corrado Battisti
  • Luca Luiselli
  • Marco A. Bologna
Original Paper


Breeding bird communities in burnt and unburnt residual pinewoods were studied over 3 years by line-transect method, following a catastrophic fire event in Castelfusano (Rome, Central Italy; July 2000). We applied bootstrap procedures to evaluate whether the observed data were true or just produced by chance, and then examined the emerging patterns at three levels: community, guild and species levels. At the community level, fire acted on breeding bird communities by altering especially the total abundance patterns: the species abundance decreased in the burnt pinewood compared to the residual one, but other parameters were not significantly affected by fire. As a consequence of fire, the destruction and structural simplification of the canopy and shrubby component, as well as the increase of edge habitat and patchiness at landscape scale, induced a turnover in species between pinewoods. Species turnover was higher at the burnt than at the residual pinewoods, during all the 3 years of study. At the guild level, the forest species decreased strongly in terms of richness and abundance in the burnt pinewoods, contrary to the edge and open habitat species which increased in terms of richness, abundance and evenness. Edge species showed the highest turnover in burnt pinewood during the whole period of study. At species level, after an a priori subdivision (based on bibliographic search) of the various species in two ecological guilds (forest versus edge species), it was found that an a posteriori statistical analysis confirmed the expected trend, i.e. that the species which decreased significantly in burnt pinewood were essentially the forest species, whereas the species which increased were essentially the edge/open habitat ones. Overall, in order to investigate the effects of fire catastrophes on birds, the guild approach seems more exhaustive than the taxonomic community approach, where intrinsic confounding trends are present.


Breeding birds Community ecology Fire Mediterranean Pinewoods Forest species Edge species Diversity Species richness Abundance Evenness 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emiliano Ukmar
    • 1
  • Corrado Battisti
    • 2
  • Luca Luiselli
    • 3
  • Marco A. Bologna
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Rome IIIRomeItaly
  2. 2.Conservation Nature OfficeRomeItaly
  3. 3.Centre of Environmental Studies ‘Demetra’ s.r.l.RomeItaly

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